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Post-graduate training network for capacity building to control ticks and tick-borne diseases

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Addressing tick-borne diseases

With global warming, ticks and tick-borne diseases (TTBD) are on the rise, posing an increased risk to animal and human health. An EU postgraduate training network worked on designing new effective control strategies for TTBD.

Health

Ticks can carry and transmit many pathogenic viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Research towards development of more efficient vaccines, along with the improved control of TTBD was the goal of the EU-funded POSTICK (Post-graduate training network for capacity building to control ticks and tick-borne diseases) project. Project participants focused on understanding the mechanisms of tick-host-pathogen interactions, pathogen diversity, survival and transmission. They also studied the modulation of host immune responses and tick survival. Identification of host-pathogen-tick molecules was necessary to design anti-tick vaccines and block pathogen transmission. The research went in several directions, with a general focus on tick-pathogen interactions and host immune responses – factors most relevant to vaccine production. The work focused on bacteria, viruses and protozoa transmitted by ticks: Anaplasma marginale, arbovirus, encephalitis virus, Theileria and Babesia. The project isolated a new species from Brazilian ticks, Ehrlichia mineirensis. Scientists obtained new data on host cytokine expression, basophil activation and tick salivary immune inhibition and identified tick proteins involved in tick-pathogen interactions. These could be effective as new candidate vaccine antigens. They also identified six novel tick defensins (defence peptides) with promising antimicrobial activity. New proteomics protocols for tick research included a phylogenomics approach using de novo sequencing from proteomics data. In addition, the project established a large-scale artificial membrane feeding system for hard ticks, which can be used successfully for screening potential acaricidal compounds. POSTICK identified important host-pathogen-tick molecules for designing anti-tick vaccines and blocking pathogen transmission. It combined the expertise of five universities, a research institute and two industrial participants from five European countries and of two associated partners from Brazil and Israel. This should ensure the translation of research results for clinical application.

Keywords

Tick, pathogen, vaccine, proteomics, phylogenomics

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